Crossroads, p.1Feyisayo Alao
"simply a masterpiece! This resourceful, powerful and thoroughly researched work has something for the young ones, the youth, and the elderly alike. You are going to find it very interesting."
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"A great story with a burning message for the present generation and those to come."
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Phebian Feyisayo Alao
Copyright © 2013 Phebian Feyisayo Alao
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
It was an extremely cold morning in Lagos. The trees whispered and swayed gently to the mild wind blowing over them; leaves fell in zigzag patterns as they danced lazily to the ground; no bird was seen in the air; clothes that had been hung to dry out on the lines flapped tirelessly while those without pegs were wrapped in sand on the ground. The dogs, meant to watch over their owners were fast asleep in their cages. The morning greeted each person differently. For most diligent civil workers who usually arrived at their offices early, the cold morning only amounted to an unusual lateness at their places of work, while the lazy bones still swayed from left to right under blankets and bed spreads. Mothers woke up to sweep their compounds that were filled with leaves due to the fierce winds that had blown the previous night.
Gradually people got out of bed to greet neighbours across fenced compounds or in adjacent apartments (for those living in “face-me-I-face-you”). People could be seen getting water from wells or bore-hole taps and preparing for baths in bathrooms made of roofing sheets and wood. One’s imagination might not do justice to how cold and frozen one would be after such bath.
At an early age, David Williams and Helen Adams had become good friends. The Williams’ and Adams’ were family friends and business partners. Naturally, as the only issues in their families, David and Helen had to spend most of their time together. The Adams’ had lost both parents from father’s and mother’s side and only the maternal parents of the Williams existed as the paternal parents too were dead. On most occasions, when the Williams’ and Adams’ travelled together on business trips, the children got to spend time at their grandparents’.
On one of such occasions, when David was twelve years of age and Helen, just a few months above nine years, their parents had a trip to make. After saying goodbye at their parents’ house in the U.S. with promises of many gifts and sweets on their return from the trip, both families left for the airport. It was barely four hours after take-off when the bitter news reached them. The aircraft they had boarded developed some fault and crashed; claiming the lives of all on board – the flight crew and passengers. It was a hard blow to endure at the time for the young children, but they found solace in each other; they helped each other to get through. After high school, David and Helen both went to the University of Chicago.
When David turned twenty-three and Helen twenty, they each left the care of their grandparents to get a job. David worked as an Engineer while Helen got a temporary job at a gift shop. They got married exactly fifteen years after the death of their parents. With dedication and hard work, they became wealthy and settled. The arrival of a baby girl in their home nine months after marriage, crowned their joy. The baby was vibrant and chubby. Her birth was smooth and easy. It was really a time for celebration with great preparation for the naming ceremony. Friends and well-wishers came eagerly with gifts. Everyone dined and wined, giving the baby whatever name that came to their minds. The ladies helped out in the kitchen while the guys did the heavy chores. They proceeded to church weeks later for the child to be blessed by the priest. It was a wonderful day in their lives with lots of dancing and lovely photographs.
Helen spent as much time as she could with her daughter, Lara. However, she still got her a nanny who took great care of her and taught her some interesting things. They would all go out on weekends to the beach, ice-cream parlours and amusement parks. The things Lara learnt included; making sand castles, swimming, painting and drawing among others. When she turned five, her nanny left. She was taken to school every morning by a driver, Ronald and at age ten, she had become a charming, brilliant and talented girl. She loved the French language and cherished the art of cake-making.
After David’s thirty-seventh year in the United States of America, he was hit with a pain of nostalgia. His urge to return home became so intense. Before his father died, he had written a will which contained numerous houses, cars, estates, and money. The family’s estate agent was delighted to hear from them and was eager to have them back to return ownership of the assets to them.
The aerial view of the Atlantic from Lagos was always breathtaking; not to mention the brightness of the mid-day sun, the cool and gentle breeze that rustled the leaves, palm fronts and bushes that lined the walkways of most houses. Standing on the beach, one could never cease to enjoy the warmth of the sand caressing the soles of the feet as one trudged along, watching the waves of the sea splash on the shore and the whispering of the palm trees; like little angelic choir. The Williams enjoyed spending time at the beach as it was a lot of fun. On one of such occasions, Lara enjoyed building sand castles with the help of her parents after they had laughed at a man. They had watched with amusement the way he fell; face first, into the sand. He was trying to catch his naughty child who was bursting all the balloons he saw. This caused the father to come up with a good quantity of sand in his mouth. As expected, his child had a good laugh out of it.
Moving into Ikoyi, for the Williams, proved an ordeal. The city, its people and their lifestyles was quite different from what they had been used to. At the end of three years, the Williams had adapted well to life in Ikoyi, Lagos; they had become fairly adjusted to the condition of the place.
Lara was jostled from her sleep by the sound of her name as her mother screamed from the kitchen downstairs. Lara knew how her mother didn’t like being the one to wake her up every morning. The thought of it reminded her that it was time for school. Instantly, she jumped out of bed, rushed into the bathroom and began cleaning up. A few minutes later, she was standing before the dressing mirror in her room, brushing her hair. She was dressed in her school uniform; a deep navy blue and white outfit, with her white socks and black sandals. Grabbing her school bag from her reading table, Lara stole one more look at her image in the wall mirror and smiled back at herself, briefly enjoying what she saw before racing down the stairs taking the steps two to three at a time.
“I’m almost there, Mum”, she shouted as she leapt down the stairs, when she heard her mum call out at her again.
“The next time you wake up late, young lady, I’ll pull you off your bed with chains. Now, off to the dining table for breakf
Lara knew when her mum was serious about a thing and she silently obeyed her without question. She rushed her breakfast of sliced bread and tea with a spread of jam on the bread and packed her bags quietly. The school bus pulled to a halt outside her door, just as she closed the front door. She jogged lightly to the bus.
Lara was not one to have such a large pool of friends, but her charming personality, coupled with her open friendliness, quickly endeared her to people. As she drew near the bus, every head was turned in her direction with their eyes fixed on the beautiful girl walking down the front path. Her neat, prim and smart figure with slightly broad hips made her out to be a fashion model, cat walking down the runway. With her being the centre of attraction as she got on the bus, many people did not notice the dark clouds forming in the skies as the bus pulled off from her house after she had been seated. She smiled and greeted people as they passed by her to their seats on the bus and tended to blush when some boys cast admiring glances at her. She was someone who enjoyed the company of herself just as much as she loved to be around people. She delighted herself more with drawing, painting and writing.
By the time they arrived at the school premises, the rain had become so furious. People were stampeding just to get into the school hall, which was a large building, used for many school and social functions but served as the assembly hall on most occasions. Filing in place in the hall were students of different races and faces and on this particular morning, many of them came in dirty, wet or both. The teachers and academic staff stood on the platform in front of the students where twenty-three chairs were arranged for the senior teachers and thirty for junior teachers. There were over two thousand chairs, all arranged in rows and columns according to classes.
It was customary that once the Principal came in to the assembly hall, no other student could come in. Hence, any student still outside at such a time would face “heavy” punishment. The Principal, who was an averagely sized woman in her mid-forties, walked in, holding a long, thin piece of cane. She was a strict disciplinarian. Many students feared her and no one ever dared to cross her path. The usual assembly routine went on again as usual. The students all rent out a loud greeting as soon as the Principal got up to the stage. Then, one of the junior teachers came to lead prayers after which the school music teacher conducted the singing of the school anthem. After this, the Principal would come up the stage to address and-many-a-times-to punish unruly students.
This particular day, the Principal complained about three boys who had sneaked out of the school premises during school hours. She asked the school disciplinarian, a hard-faced short man that gave students shivers whenever he was around, to mete out their punishments.
“After six hard strokes of the cane,” the principal said, “you will all go out to the field to cut grass for the rest of the day.” This caused some murmuring among the students. However, as soon as she looked in the direction where the noise came from, there was a sudden hush that spread like the silence of a ghost town in Texas.
Straightening her shoulders and striding across the platform with her head held high, the principal continued addressing the students who had, by now, formed their various cliques and groups and were doing their best to listen to the Principal while still stealing some gusting time with one another.
“Now, I want you all to maintain a high level of discipline so that we’ll not have any clash. If you can do that, then I promise that the upcoming event of April 15, which is the social day, will be a memorable one for us all. So, have a good day,” the Principal concluded with a slight smile that brightened her countenance. This gave the students enough confidence to rejoice and clap as they made their way towards their classes.
Ben Louise College was a model of educational excellence. Its buildings and structures were well-planned with lush garden fountains and a road network that made it easy to get around places within the large expanse of land on which the school was sited. Entering the school premises, after the assembly hall, was a large board that showed an aerial view of the school and directions for visitors and new comers.
The students had formed various groups amongst themselves. The Barbie Girls was an elite group of young, beautiful, rich and spoilt girls. The Crazy Girls was a bunch of girls who had an affinity for all things loud and noisy. The Jungle Girls was a handful of troublesome teenagers who did all they could to break school rules without being caught. The Blue Boys was the male counterpart of the Barbie Girls who could always be seen hanging out with them. The Rugged Boys lived and thrived by scaring other weaker students and had little patience for the rule book. The very elite were regarded as Bookworms. All of them had found their place and there was an unspoken but instituted hierarchy in their ranks.
The classrooms and laboratories were well-furnished with the very best in equipment and furniture and the school curriculum was well-structured to help students develop all round; physically, mentally and intellectually. Teachers usually gave students just enough assignments to keep them busy and they were expected to submit it the following day.
Tom, a mild-mannered boy of about Lara’s age wore a pair of small round spectacles. It was a bit loose on his round, button nose, round face and had low cut hair style. He turned in class at the end of their Geography lesson, “Are we to pick stones or draw maps for the Geography project?”
“We are to work as teams of two and write on the rivers in Africa!”, They all screamed back before laughing at him, knowing how he would sometimes day-dream during classes and become absentminded to what the teacher was saying.
“Okay!” he replied, a little shaken. Turning to Lara Williams (his seatmate) he asked, “So, can we work together on this?”
“Sure, why not,” She replied. Within minutes the school bell went off, signaling the end of academic activities for the day and all the students packed their books and stationery and headed for the bus, or to the playground.
Crossroads by Feyisayo Alao / History & Fiction have rating 2.7 out of 5 / Based on38 votes